Richard Freeman was hired as a Deputy San Diego City Marshal in 1850. His appointment, a full decade before the Civil War, made him the 1st black lawman in California and perhaps the United States.
Jackie Robinson was born in 1918. His birth came at a time when the United States Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal" was constitutional and African American’s were relegated to steward jobs in the United States Armed Forces, the San Diego Police Department employed pioneering officers.
In 1909, Special Officer Frank McCarter was assigned to patrol “Darktown”, the same segregated neighborhood in
which he lived. Despite the very obvious danger of enforcing the law among people who knew where his family
In 1915 Reginald S. Townsend was appointed as the first full time African American SDPD Detective. During his career he investigated crimes ranging from simple theft to murder. Early in his career he was teamed with a county health inspector was two worked side by side to successfully close the notorious Stingaree District. In 1918, Townsend played a vital role in arresting two of San Diego's most elusive killers.
Towsend left the SDPD in 1919 due to political fallout however his legacy paved the way for Stingaree (now known as the Gaslamp) to become a highly popular entertainment venue.
Sergeant John Cloud holds the distinction of being the first African American to complete a 20-year SDPD career as well as in becoming our first black sergeant. At a time when most police agencies in America wouldn’t consider hiring a black officer, Sergeant Cloud supervised white officers – many of whom specifically requested to work for him.
To learn more about pioneering black officers, click the names below.